By Marjorie Catone, BSN, RN, CCRN-CSC
Integrative Nurse Health Coach
Springtime is a wonderful time of year to seek clarity, change and growth. It is a time of tremendous energy and excitement in the world and our bodies. Our bodies seek movement and with the anticipation of warmer weather; our bodies are eager to get up and go. In traditional Chinese Medicine, every season is related to a corresponding element and organ system. Spring corresponds to the wood element and energy of the liver. The wood element is where manifestation begins, just like deep seeds planted in the Earth. In order to grow, we must first let go of what no longer serves us. Our energy during the winter months is latent and buried deep within the Earth. As Spring approaches, our energy feels the need to move and blossom. This energy drives us to refocus on our New Year’s Resolutions, move forward on our goals or triggers a desire to alter our diets and lifestyles.
Liver energy becomes sluggish from emotional stress, toxins and the heavy foods of winter. Inactivity, overeating, consuming too many alcoholic beverages and sugar can create imbalances which ultimately lead to inflammation and sickness. A Spring detox is a common theme we hear every year. What exactly does a detox do for our bodies? According to Dr. Mark Hyman, the Medical Director at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, “detoxification” means the removal of toxins from the body. Just like flowers, humans absorb toxins—preservatives, pesticides, antibiotics and heavy metals—through food, water, air and skin care products. Luckily, your digestive, endocrine, and circulatory systems have equipped you with mechanisms designed to eliminate these toxins through your mouth, eyes, skin, colon, urinary tract and your breath. The trouble is that too much sugar, caffeine, and processed foods, little to no exercise, and stress can slow the body's natural detox function to a sluggish pace. Spring is a time of rebirth and an amazing time to transform that stagnated winter energy into a sense of renewal.
According to Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” In Traditional Chinese Medicine, (TCM) food is used to nourish the body, mind and spirit. All foods have different characteristic properties of energy and are therefore used to help balance our bodies and make us healthy. According to TCM, a balance of “cool” and “hot” foods, “yin” and yang” foods is essential to overall health. As we move away from the winter months, where we were consuming "hot" or “yang” foods which are higher in calories and sodium and helped keep our bodies warm, we now move to “cool” or “yin” foods that are lower in calories and high in potassium. Life is all about balance and connection and when you incorporate some of these foods from the Eastern philosophy and the principles of our traditional Western medicine and science, including nutrition, you will have the tools necessary to live a healthy life.
By just listening to what your body best needs this time of year, it automatically is in sync from the Earth’s energy. Our bodies naturally are ready to shed the weight we acquired from winter. The types of food we find ourselves drawn to now sprout from the ground, symbolizing rebirth and regrowth. Examples include antioxidant, green-leafy vegetables, fresh salads, onions, carrots, asparagus, mushrooms, berries, lemons, green beans, broccoli, herbs, spinach and artichokes. Recognizing the relationships between seasonal changes and our bodies enables us to positively transform that energy into something usable. Whether we use this energy to get outside and clear our minds, exercise to lose the extra weight gained over wintertime, sign up for a detox or start eating lighter, more colorful whole foods, we are giving our digestive systems a rest. Spring marks a time for all things to come alive and experience rejuvenation. Your health is worth it because you are worth it.